Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My 2010 Attempt at Gardening

Last summer I attempted to grow a tomato plant and zucchini plant on our back patio. I failed. They were both growing really well for awhile, but I think I started them too late, and it just got too hot for them to thrive and produce anything. So this year I decided to get an earlier start. I was at Target recently when they had plants on sale, so I got a zucchini plant and a strawberry plant. I was going to get a tomato plant but then saw the strawberry ones and figured that would be better since my kiddos love strawberries.

The boy and I planted them a couple weeks ago, and so far so good!! The zucchini plant doesn't seem to be growing a whole lot but it does have blossoms on it, so I take that as a good sign. The strawberry plant is doing pretty amazing! I'd say we've gotten at least eight strawberries off it so far! Considering most things I try to grow end up dead not long after I plant them, I think eight strawberries is pretty spectacular.

Here are some pics of our patio garden...

The plant! See how it's thriving? (Never mind the size of it when I bought don't need to know everything...)

My helpers

Our first crop!

Mmmm...the fruit of our labors...

Barefoot Contessa's Caesar Club Sandwich

One more Barefoot Bloggers recipe that I missed posting in the correct month and finally got around to doing! I think I only have three recipes left (one of which I'm making Friday night) and then I'm fully caught up. woo hoo!! One is a cookie recipe, so I'll have to enlist the boy's help for that one as he loves to help make cookies.

Anyway, this recipe was chosen back in March by Karen of Shortbread. It's from the Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook, which was the first Ina cookbook in my collection. My sister-in-law got it for me for my birthday many years ago. This sandwich was always one I wanted to try, but I'm not sure why it's taken me this long to make it. Let's see, I got the cookbook in April 2005, so five years?! Good lord. I'm serious when I say I have a major procrastination problem. In seeing what BB recipes I'd been slacking on preparing I saw this one and figured I'd go ahead and add it to the meal plan.

Barefoot Contessa's Caesar Club Sandwich
Copyright 2006, Barefoot Contessa at Home, All Rights Reserved

2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1 large ciabatta bread
2 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
12 sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
2 to 3 ounces Parmesan, shaved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan skin side up. Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Cool slightly, discard the skin and bones, and slice the meat thickly. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the pancetta on another sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels.

Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, and mayonnaise and process again to make a smooth dressing. (Refrigerate the Caesar dressing if not using it immediately.)

Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and separate the top from the bottom. Toast the bread in the oven, cut side up, for 5 to 7 minutes; cool slightly. Spread the cut sides of each piece with the Caesar dressing. Place half the arugula on the bottom piece of bread and then layer in order: the sun-dried tomatoes, shaved Parmesan, crispy pancetta, and sliced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish with another layer of arugula. Place the top slice of ciabatta on top and cut in thirds crosswise. Serve at room temperature.


I only changed things up slightly. Well, maybe a little more than slightly. I pounded out two chicken breasts so they'd be thinner and then cooked them on my grill pan instead of Ina's oven method. I also had some homemade Caesar dressing I'd made (shoot...did I ever post that? It's a Rick Bayless recipe...), so I skipped that part of the recipe and just used up what I had. And I used bacon instead of pancetta because I already had some. And I used regular tomatoes instead of sun-dried. Want in on a little secret? I'm not really a fan of sun-dried tomatoes. If they're in something and I don't have to taste them on their own, I don't mind them. But I got quite a few tomatoes from my produce co-op last week, so I went with that instead.

So, after FINALLY trying this, I'm so sad I waited five years!! This was an awesome sandwich!! We had something going on at our house on Sunday when I made this, so dinner was going to be ready really late. We ended up feeding the kids chicken nuggets, then the husband and I had this after they had eaten so as to not postpone their bedtime. Honestly I'm glad we didn't have to share it with them. We each ate a third of the sandwich, then he took the leftover piece to work for lunch the next day. This was really easy to throw together, especially since I already had Caesar dressing made up in the fridge. I foresee us having this on a regular basis over the summer when it's too hot to cook.

Ina, you've done it again!! You never cease to amaze me!!

Brown Butter Risotto with Lobster

Wow, I feel like all I've done today is update my blog, and I still have five more to go! Ugh...I hate when I fall behind! I have to go a little out of order now from when I made things because apparently I have pictures on a different camera than the one I uploaded yesterday. Or maybe I flat out didn't take pictures, I'm not sure. I've started a new meal planning format, using an Excel spreadsheet. I'm trying to figure out how to upload it to Google docs, but whenever I try to it changes my awesome formatting. I really want to share it because I'm quite pleased with it.

Anyway, I was at Barnes & Noble recently and spied Giada's newest cookbook, Giada at Home. I didn't even know she had a new cookbook out, so I flipped through it and saw this recipe for risotto. I had some lobster tails in the freezer I needed to be using, so really I bought the book for the sole purpose of making this recipe. Of course, had I been thinking, I would have realized I could probably find it on the Food Network website. Oh well, I have yet to see a Giada cookbook I didn't like, and after flipping through it more there are all sorts of yummy things in there I want to make.

Giada's Brown Butter Risotto with Lobster

1 pound (about 2 medium) frozen lobster tails, thawed
4 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
4 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the lobster tails and boil for 8 to 10 minutes until the shells curl and the lobster meat turns white. Drain, transfer to a cutting board, and cool for 15 minutes. Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut through the top shell lengthwise. Remove the meat and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Keep hot over low heat.

In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Cook until the butter begins to foam and then turns brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Add the onion and cook, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the brandy and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of stock and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of stock to absorb before adding the next. Cook until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining butter and 2 tablespoons chives. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer the risotto to a large serving bowl. Arrange the lobster meat on top of the risotto and garnish with the remaining chives.


I had never cooked lobster before, and mine got a little overdone. Whether it was my cooking or the fact that the lobster tails had been in my freezer probably longer than they should have been, I'm not sure. I didn't have any brandy on hand, so instead I substituted some white wine, since the husband and I were drinking it anyway. I also added in a splash of half and half at the end to give it a little extra creaminess.

I have a real love/hate relationship with risotto. I LOVE to eat it, but it takes so freakin' long to make. However, I've always found that the end result is worth the time and effort. This was probably the BEST risotto I've ever had (or made). The lobster was a decadent addition, and I loved that it was just topped with the lobster, not mixed into it. I think you could also use some large shrimp with equally good results and flavor.

There were no leftovers of this. The husband and I had it for a date night dinner after the kids went to bed and ate every last bite. I should probably be ashamed to admit that, but it was so ridiculously good I don't really care.

Eggplant Pasta Sauce

I mentioned in a previous post that my father-in-law came to visit recently to go see some hockey playoff games (Red Wings vs. Coyotes) with the husband. I wanted a crockpot dinner for one of the nights so we'd be sure to eat dinner before they had to leave for the game. I'd received an eggplant in my produce co-op the week before and needed to be using it. I found a pasta sauce recipe in one of my slow cooker cookbooks that used eggplant, so I thought it would be a great choice.

Eggplant Pasta Sauce

1 lb. eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 14-oz cans Italian diced tomatoes (with garlic, oregano, and basil), undrained
1 6-oz can Italian tomao paste with roasted garlic
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 tsp minced garlic
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
4 cups hot cooked penne

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine all ingredients except pasta and cheese in slow cooker and mix. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3.5-4 hours. Serve over hot, cooked pasta and top with parmesan cheese if desired.


I didn't have any mushrooms on hand, so instead I added in some diced zucchini. I also thought two cans of tomatoes didn't look like it was going to be saucy enough, so I added in a third. None of them were the Italian style, so I just added in more of the Italian seasoning to compensate for it.

This worked out perfectly to make for that night! We ended up being gone most of the afternoon, so I wouldn't have had much time to get something together for dinner. This way all I had to do was boil some water, throw in the pasta, and dish it up. I made Barefoot Contessa's Garlic Ciabbata Bread to go along with it. This sauce was really good, and I loved all the vegetables in it to make it chunky and give it a nutritional boost. Everyone really enjoyed the sauce--my kids even ate it up! This was a great crockpot spaghetti sauce that I'll definitely make again!

(Note: This made quite a bit, so I froze about half the sauce. It was definitely better the first time lost a lot of the flavor and the vegetables didn't really hold their texture once frozen. It wasn't bad, but it was definitely better when it was fresh.)

Chicken Marsala

I could have sworn I had a Weight Watchers chicken marsala recipe I had made and posted at some point, but I couldn't find it on my blog, nor in my recipe stashes anywhere. I had some mushrooms from my produce co-op a few weeks ago that needed to get used, and I had some marsala wine, so I thought Chicken Marsala would be perfect. When I couldn't find the recipe I thought I had, I turned to my cookbooks and thought Giada would help me out. And she sure did!! Her recipe was for veal marsala, but I just substituted chicken for the veal. I'm not sure if this is the same recipe from her cookbook, but it sounds pretty similar, and copying it from the Food Network website is much easier than typing it all out. For Giada's veal version, check out the recipe on the Food Network website. My recipe below is the same, except I replaced each mention of veal with chicken.

Chicken Marsala

8 chicken cutlets (about 3 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 ounces assorted mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup sweet Marsala
3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
Leaves from 1 fresh rosemary sprig

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 chicken cutlets and cook until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add another tablespoon of butter and oil, if necessary. Repeat with the remaining 4 cutlets. Set the cutlets aside.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the shallot and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add a tablespoon of the olive oil, if necessary. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender and the juices evaporate, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Add the Marsala. Simmer until the Marsala reduces by half, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and the rosemary leaves. Simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Return the veal to the skillet. Pour in all of the pan juices. Cook just until heated through, turning to coat, about 1 minute. Stir the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to plates. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.


I'm pretty sure the recipe I used called for a stem of rosemary to be put in the sauce and then removed, not just the leaves. But that's not that big a difference. I love how easy Chicken Marsala is to make, and I love the flavor of it. I've seen recipes for it before that don't call for mushrooms, but I feel the mushrooms are an integral part of the recipe.

This was a great recipe--so flavorful and really easy to put together, too. I'll definitely make this again! I served it with some steamed broccoli and garlic mashed potatoes. Yum!

Brisket Pizza

Like I mentioned in the original Brisketfest post, the idea for Brisketfest stemmed from an episode of Man Vs. Food where Adam had a brisket pizza in San Antonio. So of course a brisket pizza needed to be one of the things I made with some of the leftovers. The husband's dad came to visit for some hockey playoff games, so we had brisket pizza while he was here. I didn't really have a set recipe in mind, but I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Brisket Pizza

1 recipe homemade pizza crust
2 cups barbecue sauce (I used my leftover Rick Bayless barbecue sauce)
shredded brisket
shredded mozzarella or pizza blend cheese

Prepare pizza dough according to recipe. Top with barbecue sauce spread evenly over crust. Spread shredded brisket on top of the sauce, covering completely. Top with cheese. Bake at 450 for approximately 15 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted.


The only thing I think I'd change would be to mix a bit of barbecue sauce into the meat, but everyone else thought it was fine as it was. This was a great new pizza and like the brisket tostadas, something I'd make again without hesitation if I had leftover brisket!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Brisket Tostadas this thing on?? I'm back! Did you miss me? Are you still there? The last couple weeks have been crazy with house stuff. I think I've mentioned we're trying to find a new house. Last week I had a minor breakdown that we're never going to find one and would forever be stuck living in our what-used-to-be-nice-but-is-now-ghetto neighborhood. The boys and I went out with our realtor one day last week (after my breakdown) and ended up finding a house that I loved. The husband came and saw it, put an offer on it, and it got accepted!! We're just waiting on the signed contract to come back from the seller then we can move forward with the inspection, appraisal, and all that fun home-buying stuff. What a relief! Of course, once that happens then I have to start cleaning out our house and packing, so I'm sure I won't be updating that often once again. Or I will because I hate packing to move and look for any excuse to procrastinate.

Now...finally I'm going to finish up the rest of my Brisketfest posts!! Well, Brisketfest leftovers anyway. But that was part of the reason to have Brisketfest so we could try a bunch of awesome leftovers using the brisket.

As you know, I heart The Pioneer Woman's cooking website. Since I had used her brisket recipe I thought it was only fair to also use her recipe for Brisket Tostadas. She does a much better job of laying it all out and taking pictures so I'm just going to link to her post:

Pioneer Woman's Brisket Tostadas

I didn't change it up a whole lot, although I bought tostada shells instead of making my own, and I only did two shells per tostada instead of three. I had some leftover Trader Joe's enchilada sauce in the fridge, so I used that instead of the El Pato.

These were so good!! I love tostadas, but I usually just have them with beans. I really liked the addition of the brisket meat. I would definitely make these again, assuming I have leftover brisket again at some point!

I'm soooo wishing I had stuff on hand to make tostadas!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rick Bayless Barbecue Sauce

I think it's really hard to find a reasonably priced bottled barbecue sauce that doesn't have a bunch of unnecessary junk in it like high fructose corn syrup. I've made my own in the past a few times but wasn't ever super impressed with any of the recipes I tried. So I was beyond delighted to see this recipe in the Rick and Lanie cookbook.

Hickory House Barbecue Sauce
Copyright 2004, Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures

2 garlic cloves
1 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp vinegar (cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp barbecue spice (recipe below) or chili powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Peel garlic and crush through galic press into a small saucepan. Add all the remaining ingredients and 3/4 cup water. Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt if you think necessary. The sauce is ready to use. It can be stored, refrigerated in a sealed jar, for up to a month.

Barbecue Spice

2 large garlic cloves
1/4 cup plain ground chile or paprika
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)
1 tsp dried thyme
4 tsp salt

Peel garlic and crush through garlic press into a small bowl. add remaining ingredients. Stir, making sure to thoroughly mix in garlic. If not using right away, store in small jar in refrigerator up to 1 month.


Wowee, wow, wow!! This is definitely some of the best barbecue sauce I have ever had!! It had just a hint of spice from the chile powder and was a great consistency--not too thick, not too thin. Once again, Rick Bayless totally rocked it!

Barbecue spice mix:

Finished barbecue sauce (after I'd taken what I needed for the baked beans):

Rick Bayless Barbecue Baked Beans

Late last year I checked out a cookbook from the library written by Rick Bayless and his daughter Lanie, Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventure. I loved what I saw when I flipped through it, and I ended up buying it on Amazon for $10. Pretty good deal I thought! It's not just Mexican recipes like most of his cookbooks, it covers other ethnic cuisines from places they have traveled as a family--Spain, Morocco, France, Thailand--and recipes from the barbecue restaurant Rick's family had when he was growing up. I'm so glad I thought of that section when I was looking for recipes to make for Brisketfest 2010.

Hickory House Barbecue Baked Beans
Copyright 2004, Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures

1/2 large green or red bell pepper, cut in small pieces
Two 15-ounce cans pinto beans or navy beans, drained and rinsed (or 3 to 3-1/2 cups home-cooked pinto or navy beans well seasoned with salt)
1 cup barbecue sauce, store bought or homemade
1/2 cup water or bean cooking liquid if using home-cooked beans
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 375.

In an 8-inch square baking pan, mix together everything except Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to dissolve sugar completely. Dribble Worcestershire over top. Bake until slightly thickened, glazed and browned on top, and bubbling vigorously around the edges, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool slightly before serving.


I have never been a fan of baked beans, except for a recipe my friend Rebecca makes that has bacon and bacon drippings in it. Who wouldn't like that?! Okay, maybe a vegetarian, but even then I think they'd secretly enjoy it (if they weren't getting sick from it). I figured I have yet to be disappointed by a Rick Bayless recipe, so I was hoping this would turn me on to baked beans.

Man alive, did it ever!! These beans are amazing--so easy to put together, so full of taste and flavor. Yum!! I much prefer making these from just plain pinto beans instead of doctoring up a can of baked beans. This is definitely my go-to baked beans recipe now, and I may even start putting it in my meal plans as a side dish!

Beans ready to be thrown into oven (or gently placed, rather, so they didn't spill everywhere):

Finished product...sorry it's so blurry!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brisketfest 2010

Recently the husband and I were watching Man Vs. Food on the Travel Channel and saw an episode where Adam was in San Antonio (interestingly enough that's where my in-laws live) and ate a brisket pizza. We were both intrigued and set about trying to find a brisket, which aren't very easy to come by in Phoenix. My mom was in Kansas City recently and found brisket at Costco and bought one and brought it home on the plane. The idea of Brisketfest was born. Our friend Steve used to work in a BBQ joint in Texas and makes an amazing brisket. he and I used to work together, and he'd occasionally bring a brisket in to work to share with all of us, and it was so freakin' good. We brought Steve into the Brisketfest mix, and he ended up buying a nine pound Wagyu Beef brisket. It's basically a kobe beef brisket. It was decided that he would smoke his, and I'd cook the one my mom got, and we'd all feast here.

I've never cooked a brisket before, but I remembered that Pioneer Woman had a recipe on her website, so I decided that's the one I'd make. It was really easy which I liked since I was already a little intimidated going up against Steve the BBQ-master!

Instead of pasting PW's recipe, I'll just give you the link to her page on it. Then you can see all her awesome pictures, too.

Pioneer Woman's Brisket

It was really good, although I was a bit concerned when I took the pan out of the fridge to put it in the oven and discovered the marindade was gelatinous which kind of grossed me out. Who am I really grossed me out. But I put it in the oven anyway, and was so pleased with the results!! I think I calculated mine would need roughly three hours, but it ended up needing quite a bit more, I'd say it was at least 30 or 40 minutes until it was fork tender and separated easily.

I don't think it really compared to Steve's, but for my first attempt it was pretty darn good. I also made some Rick Bayless recipes to go along with the brisket, but thsoe will be in their own posts. Did you know his family owned a barbecue joint while he was growing up? What can't that man do?! Back to brisket, I don't know what Steve did to his brisket but it was pretty darn amazing. Of course his could have had a lot to do with the grade of meat he was using.

Brisketfest ended up being quite the feast. Two briskets, homemade barbecue sauce, homemade baked beans, cornbread, potato salad, coleslaw, and of course Shiner Bock beer in honor of our Texas dinner. My mom made the potato salad (red potatoes, ranch dressing, and bacon...yum!) and coleslaw (it had pineapple in it...I need to get the recipe from her because it was really good and a cool twist on coleslaw).

Brisket in its marinade:

See what I mean about gelatinous? Kind of gross.

Steve's brisket (I wish I could stick a fork in my computer screen and eat some more of it):

My brisket:

My Brisketfest 2010 plate:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Lasagna

Wow, it took me a lot longer to get caught up than I had intended! And I think I still have two things I didn't post, but one wasn't very interesting, and the other was the goat cheese from my cheese making class, which for some reason I feel I need a big chunk of time to post. Or maybe I'm just too lazy to go downstairs and find the recipes from the class and type up how to do it. But, I promise you that some day I will!! Right now I'm sneaking a couple minutes while the boy is at preschool and the baby is sleeping to post tonight's dinner. Then it's an exciting morning of putting away laundry, throwing more laundry in the washer, and cleaning my kitchen. You're jealous of me, aren't you? Being a stay at home mom is sooooo glamorous, I know.

I was flipping through my Make it Fast, Cook it Slow cookbook recently looking for ideas for Wednesday night (Bible study night) dinners and saw this Buffalo Chicken Lasgna recipe. It sounded intriguing, and all I really needed for it was some ricotta, so I figured I'd slate it for one night this week. Although I'm not doing it in the crockpot, I'm going to do it in the oven like a regular lasagna.

Actually I'm going to be super lazy and just post the link to the original recipe:

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Lasagna

I'm using no-cook lasagna noodles because I have some on hand I want to use up, and then I'll bake it in the oven, probably at 350 for 30 minutes covered, then 10 uncovered to let the top brown a bit. Our friend Steve is having dinner with us tonight, so I really hope this turns out!! I'm going to look up a low fat Ceasar dressing and make a salad to go with this. I may stop at the store for some bread, too, but I'll have to decide if it's worth it to go to the grocery store with two kids for just one thing!


Mmmmmm...this was really good! I love interesting takes on lasagna, something other than the normal "ricotta, meat sauce, noodles, mozarella" recipe. I used too much blue cheese, but I don't think it was too distracting from the overall flavor. I ended up having not quite an entire cup of hot sauce because I didn't have enough, but still had that wing tanginess to it. The boy didn't really eat it--he said he didn't like the cheese in it. He just picked the chicken out of his. The baby, however, had THIRDS. So three out of four of us loving it is pretty good! I'll definitely make this again, and I'd like to try the crockpot version next time to see how that does.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers: Coconut Cupcakes

I've fallen so behind on the Barefott Bloggers group. I check each month what we're making but then forget to put it into my meal plan. These cupcakes were one of the February recipes. Oops. They looked amazing, but the husband doesn't like coconut, and I really needed a reason to make them so I didn't eat all of them on my own. I finally made them last week to take to my Bible study group on Wednesday night. They were a hit!! A couple people even took some home. I had the husband take most of what was left to work the next day because I knew otherwise I'd eat all of them.

Coconut Cupcakes
Copyright 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All rights reserved

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.


I really, really, really love coconut cakes and pies, so I thought these were fantastic!! In reading some of the reviews from other Barefoot Bloggers, I saw that someone had put lime juice in the frosting. I thought that sounded great, especially since I'm not a big fan of almond extract, so I substituted lime juice for the almond extract. It gave it a really nice, light citrus taste that also helped the coconut stand out some more. I have to say, too, that the cupcakes were almost even better the next day.

As much as I liked these, I don't know if I'd make them again since the husband doesn't like coconut. I'd make them to take somewhere for sure!

Oh, by the way, I had some cupcake batter spillage in my oven (which reminds me, it's still there...) filling the tins all the way to the top, so I'd suggest either not filling them as full (plus they were kind of hard to get out of the pan like that since the tops were on the pan if that makes sense) or putting something underneath the tins to catch any spills.

Hello, beautiful cupcake batter, ready to go in the oven!

Same cupcakes, 30 minutes later...

Golden beauties waiting for their frosting tops...

(By the way, unless Ina has some kind of huge cupcake pans, 18-20 cupcakes is BS. I got 24 out of my batter AND had enough left for at least four more cupcakes, I just didn't have another pan to use.)

Oh, frosting, how I love and hate you all at the same time.

Mmmm...finished cupcakes...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Barefoot Contessa's Blue Cheese Coleslaw

I can't remember if I mentioned that my awesome mom got me an awesome birthday present. It's something I've been coveting for awhile now but never in a million years ever thought anyone would buy it for me. She got me the Cuisinart Elite food processor. Lordy mama, I was so flippin' excited!! My friend Jen came over for a food gadget play date last week so we could break it in. I also got the food grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer from my aunt and uncle that I'm dying to try, but we ran out of time to play with that one. Her darn twin baby girls needed to be fed and she had to beg and plead with me to give one of them a bottle. Yeah right...who am I kidding. I went and got the one she wasn't feeding out of her car seat and popped the bottle in her mouth. I'm a complete sucker for babies--especially super cute girl babies. Anyway, we made a guacamole recipe that came with the food processor, and it was pretty good, but I was still dying to play with it more. Jen had mentioned we should do something with blue cheese because her husband doesn't like it, so she never gets to eat it, but sadly I didn't have any on hand. I did, however, remember this Barefoot Contessa recipe I had seen and promptly went to the store over the weekend to get some so I could make it because it's a very food processor heavy recipe. Woo hoo! First, a picture of my new toy:

Now, on to the recipe. Conveniently it's posted on the Food Network website and on the Barefoot Contessa website. But I'll go ahead and post it here, too.

Blue Cheese Coleslaw
Copyright, 2006 Barefoot Contessa at Home, All Rights Reserved

½ small head green cabbage
½ small head red cabbage
4 large carrots
2 cups good mayonnaise
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups crumbled Roquefort (6 ounces)
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cut the cabbage halves in half and cut out the cores. Set up the food processor with the slicing blade and place the pieces of cabbage horizontally in the feed tube, one at a time. (If they don’t fit, cut them to fit lying down.) Insert the feed tube pusher and turn on the processor, but don’t press on the feed tube pusher or the slices will turn out too thick! Continue with the remaining red and green cabbage. Transfer to a large bowl, discarding any very large pieces. Before you pour the dressing on the salad, save a handful of the grated vegetables to decorate for serving.

Change the slicing blade for the large shredding blade and cut the carrots so they will fit horizontally into the feed tube. Replace the feed tube pusher and press firmly with the food processor on. Transfer the shredded carrots to bowl with the cabbages.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, two mustards, vinegar, celery salt, kosher salt, and pepper. Pour enough mayonnaise dressing over the grated vegetables to moisten, and toss well. Add the Roquefort and the parsley and toss together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve cold or at room temperature. Garnish with the reserved granted vegetables.


I only had a head of green cabbage, so I just used the whole thing instead of getting purple as well. I also couldn't find the celery salt in my pantry, so that got left out of mine. Now, I want to point out something very important in the instructions above:

Pour enough mayonnaise dressing over the grated vegetables to moisten, and toss well.

Note that it does not say to pour in ALL of the dressing, which is what I did. I'm just trying to save you all from the same mistake I made. And of course I read that part as soon as the last drop of dressing was in my big mixing bowl. Sigh.

In spite of my oversight, this coleslaw was awesome. I of course had a taste once I took it out of the fridge and was instantly in love. So I kept taking more test bites just to make sure it was all okay. Then I called the husband over to make sure he liked it--and he kept doing the same, even though it was really, really wet and had way too much dressing on it.

This is definitely something that I'll make again, only I'll gradually add in the dressing. It was really fine the night we had it, but leftovers the next day and day after that were really too soggy to enjoy.

Aggie's Grilled Portabella and Brie Burgers

One of my most favorite cooking blogs is Aggie's Kitchen. I'm also a fan of her page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. But not in a scary stalker kind of way--just I really like her blog and she posts some amazing sounding recipes!! So imagine my surprise when I logged into my account the other day to check on the blogs I follow and saw I had two comments that needed to be moderated--and both were from Aggie herself!!! Then I noticed I had a new follower and it was Aggie!! Oh man, I was so freakin' excited! I called my friend Jen as soon as I saw it because I know she loves Aggie's blog, too, and really she was the only person I knew that would be as excited as I was.

Aggie, if you're reading this, please don't think we're scary people and please don't unfollow me because of all this!! I'm just trying to share my excitement.

As luck or fate would have it, this was the very same day I had planned on making one of Aggie's recipes for dinner. Weird, huh? I know. So instead of flat out copying her post on it, I'm just going to link to it on her blog so she gets full credit. She has beautiful pictures of this tasty burger as well:

Aggie's Grilled Portabella and Brie Burgers

These burgers were amazing!! The one downside was that my grill ran out of propane shortly after I started putting zucchini and the mushrooms on it. Oops. TGIHAGP! (That's "thank God I have a grill pan" by the way.) Our burgers consisted of grilled zucchini, some roasted red peppers, portabella mushrooms, and copious amounts of brie because I heart brie very, very much. I was excited to find out that my local Safeway now carries portabella mushrooms in bulk so you can buy them by the pound instead of in the package. It's ridiculously cheaper that way. I got two big portabellas for $2.50 I think it was and the package of two was $4!! The husband suggested we have portabellas on a weekly basis now that I've discovered this.

Here's my picture of Aggie's creation:

I'm telling you...we don't mess around with cheese at our house!

Barefoot Contessa's Hashed Browns

It occurred to me that we hadn't had Biscuits and Vegetarian Sausage Gravy for quite awhile, and I had just bought a box of Morningstar Farms sausage patties at Costco, so I slated it for dinner one night last week. I wanted some potatoes to go with it, so I grabbed a Barefoot Contessa cookbook figuring at least one of her books had to have a hash brown recipe in it. Lo and behold, there was one, in the Family Style cookbook. Super easy with basic ingredients--excellent!!

Barefoot Contessa's Hashed Browns
Copyright, 2002, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, All rights reserved.

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and 1/2-inch diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons minced scallions (white and green parts)

Melt the butter in a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan. Add the potatoes, onions, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally with a flat spatula, until the potatoes are evenly browned and cooked through. (Allow the potatoes to cook for 5 minutes before turning.) Turn off the heat and add the parsley and scallions. Serve hot.


I only chopped up one onion because I don't like chopping onions, and I thought that one would be enough. I checked the recipe at least five times to make sure it really said five tablespoons of butter because it seemed like a lot.

These were good potatoes, but I think the five tablespoons was a bit too much for my liking. Maybe since I used one less onion I should have scaled it back a bit? I don't know. They were definitely tasty--I LOVE hash browns--but they didn't really ever brown a whole lot because of all the butter. Or at least that's what I'm attributing it to. Definitely easy, definitely good, and definitely something I'll make again--only with less butter next time.

Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac and Cheese

Ummmm...bacon and ranch in mac and cheese? Catches your eye doesn't it? It did mine when I was flipping through a Cooking Light magazine at my mom's recently. I stopped subscribing to it because I don't like the new layout. I was sad to stop taking it as I've gotten it since 2003 or 2004, but I just didn't dig it. Plus my mom gets it, so I might as well read hers and then go to the website and email myself the recipes I liked from it. I'm quite the money saver, can't you tell?

Anyway, I'm pretty much a sucker for mac and cheese to begin with, then when I saw bacon in the title it was a done deal that my family would be having this for dinner at some point. When the boy asked what we were having for dinner the night I made this, and I told him "mac and cheese" he responded with, "Oh boy! My favorite!!" What can I say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac and Cheese

8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
1 slice applewood-smoked bacon
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1/3 cup condensed 45% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded six-cheese Italian blend (such as Sargento)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded colby-Jack cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
2. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Finely chop bacon; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken to drippings in pan; sauté 6 minutes or until done.
3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; sprinkle flour evenly into pan. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Combine milk and soup, stirring with a whisk; gradually add milk mixture to saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat; let stand 4 minutes or until sauce cools to 155°. Add Italian cheese blend, onion powder, garlic powder, dill, and salt, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in pasta and chicken.
4. Preheat broiler.
5. Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with reserved bacon and colby-Jack cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts.

Nutritional Information
Fat:17g (sat 9.2g,mono 4.7g,poly 1.4g)


My family loves bacon. Generations of my family have loved bacon, as have generations of my husband's family (or at least his parents do, so I'm assuming it goes back longer than that), so when I read this only called for one piece I figured that just wouldn't do. Kind of like I always add more cheese than what is called for. I figured a second slice wouldn't hurt anything, so I cooked up two. As soon as my guys smelled bacon cooking all three of them were in the kitchen. I damn near had to smack their hands. Just kidding--about the hand smacking, they did all come in asking for bacon, but I told them it was for dinner. I also didn't use the canned cream of whatever soup because I've vowed to stop buying it because it's really nasty stuff. Or at least the ingredients in it are nasty. I try to stick to a rule of "if I can't pronounce it, I shouldn't eat it" when it comes to buying food. In the Make it Fast, Cook it Slow cookbook, Stephanie O'Dea has a recipe for cream of whatever soup you can make yourself and substitute for the canned stuff that's really easy to put together. You can find the recipe on her blog here.

Because I had to make my own cream of whatever soup and needed to make a separate roux for the mac and cheese, this took a little longer than I thought it would, but it all worked out in the end. I didn't have colby jack cheese to use, so I used some shredded cheddar instead.

This was yummy!!! I ended up adding in a little too much dill (I go a little crazy with fresh dill because I heart it so), but it wasn't too overpowering. Just stick with what's listed in the recipe!! If I recall correctly (and I'm pretty sure I do in looking over what else we've eaten recently), the husband had thirds and kept going back for little bites until he had finished off the pan. So, we liked it. The boy and baby liked it, too. This is definitely something I'll make again, I'll just have to plan my time out a little better.

Rick Bayless' Zucchini-Musrhoom Tacos with (or without) Chorizo

It makes me sad that this was already two weeks ago that I made this, and I'm just now posting it. This was worthy of posting as soon as I was done eating. I was goign to say while I was eating, but I wouldn't have stopped eating for anything in the world. But now I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had some zucchinis and Mexican squash I needed to use from the produce co-op in which I participate (how's that for wording it so I don't end the sentence with a preposition!!) and stumbled upon this recipe in Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday cookbook when looking for zucchini recipes. I still had some homemade queso fresco from my cheese making class, so all I needed was chorizo and mushrooms.

Darn it, I can't find this recipe online already (although I really didn't look that hard), so I guess I'll type the beast out myself.

Zucchini-Mushroom Tacos with (or without) Chorizo
Copyright 2005, Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday

4 ounces fresh Mexican chorizo sausage, casing removed (about 1/2 cup)
1-1/2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil, if needed
1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 ounces mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, portobello or the like), stemmed and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1 15-ounce can diced tomates in juice (preferably fire-roasted), drained
1 canned chipotle chile en adobo, seeded
1-1/2 tsp chipotle canning sauce
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 to 3/4 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese
12 warm corn tortillas
Hot sauce, for serving

If using chorizo, lay it in a very large skillet and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring regularly and breaking up clumps, until cooked through, about 4 minutes.

If the chorizo has rendered considerable fat, tip off and discard all but enough to lightly coat the pan; if it has rendered very little--or if you're not using the chorizo--add the oil to the skillet and raise the heat to medium-high. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook about 2 minutes more, stirring regularly, until their liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are beginning to brown.

While the mushrooms are cooking, pour the tomatoes into a food processor or blender. Add the chipotle chile and its canning sauce and process until smooth.

When the mushrooms are ready, add the tomato mixture and cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of canned tomato sauce, about 3-4 minutes. Add the zucchini and continue to cook, stirring every once in awhile, until the zucchini is cooked through but still a little crisp, 8-10 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon (more if not using chorizo).

Scoop into a bowl and garnish with the crumbled cheese. Serve with the warm tortillas and hot sauce for everyone to make soft tacos.


Wow. Wow. WOW!!! These tacos were phenomenal. They smelled amazing while they were cooking, but man alive did they ever taste good. Our friend Steve was over that night and had dinner with us, and we all (him, the husband, and I) LOVED these. They were so spicy my lips were tingling--but in a good way. I really wasn't sure at first how all the flavors were going to come together, but they were so good. I made my own corn tortillas to go with them. Oh man, just thinking about these tacos makes me want to have them again. The only change I made was slicing zucchini instead of cubing.

I just read the intro to this recipe in the cookbook and it ends with:

"A quick saute, starting with the rousing flavor of Mexican chorizo and dolled up with smoky chipotle chile, shows off the sexier side of zucchini."

Bow chicka bow zucchini indeed!!

Where to start...

Oh man, I was doing so well there for awhile at staying up to date on my blog posting, and I really have no idea what happened, nor do I have an excuse for it. The husband is out with a friend tonight, my house is sparkling clean, we had pizza for dinner, so there are no dishes to do, so here I sit ready to update my blog. Then I wrote out a list of the new recipes I've made since my last update, and the tally came to eight. EIGHT!!! Sheesh. I'll plug along for as long as I can manage, and what I don't get done tonight will have to probably wait for the weekend or naptime tomorrow.

So, here we go!